islamicguardians_280Jews first arrived to the land now known as Morocco over 2000 years ago. Protected under the Islamic Principle of Tolerance since the 7th century, they flourished, holding high positions in trade and government. The Star of David was a symbol shared by all Moroccans, appearing on currency and even the national flag. During the Holocaust, when asked for a list of Jews, King Mohammed V declared, “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.”

Following World War II, Zionists recruiters looked to Moroccan Jews to populate the new State of Israel. Israel’s expansion marked the beginning of a Moroccan Jewish exodus. 300,000 Jews inhabited Morocco as of 1940; it was the largest Jewish population in the Arab World. Today, less than 4000 remain.

What remains today is a Jewish past nearly abandoned, fragments of Morocco’s Jewish culture that have been left under the protection of Muslim guardians devoting their lives to a history that isn’t even their own, yet entirely is. The majority of the remaining community now lives in Casablanca, where they choose to identify with their French past rather than their Arab heritage. Across the country amidst breathtaking landscapes lay the tombs of holy Jewish saints, abandoned relics and sacred spaces. Within these spaces are pilgrims seeking to identify with what remains of this ancient and holy history.

This work represents a journey into the remnants of this cultural exodus and aims to reveal a history of co-existence that has been lost in the wake of Zionism.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim